One night recently during class sparring time, I had a sudden realisation. No doubt this thought was not a new one, and I am sure it’s been had by many before…but for me it was a first. I noticed that I had stopped being intently aware of my opponent. I wasn’t really focussed in on them and their reactions, and what they were doing. Now….this was only dojo sparring and so I suppose I could forgive myself for being more relaxed in this case, however I started to wonder if this was good training. I have told my students many times that you cannot expect to react in a way in which you do not train….so I already know my answer. No…this is not good training ! or is it ?
I’m finding it difficult to explain what I mean here but I will try my best. IT’s not like I wasn’t watching my partner because I was. Of course I was reacting to them or else I would have been hurt, but I found myself thinking about me. I discovered that I was noticing things about my body such as my stiff lower back, or my injured ankle…..and really this is a distraction. Then I heard my thoughts in my head , you know the kind…Oh gee I’m a bit tired tonight……I should be kicking faster…..why am I missing that shot…..blah blah blah. And to steal a line from one of my favourite movies…..” Too Many Mind”. Once I noticed this I pulled myself back into line and reminded myself not to analyse this now…..to get my focus back….but I made a mental note to come back and re-visit this later. So here I am.
Although not the point of my post here, but I guess there is a kind of state that we like to think we can be in when we fight. A kind of ‘not thinking’ but responding automatically in a sense. That’s why we are told and also tell our students alike that we need to repeat basics so many times. So that we can do them without thinking. I guess for the most part that is true, and our training should definitely take over, but we still need to be tuned into what’s happening. We should have our eyes and ears open, and watch our opponent like a Hawk for surely It would be hard, if not impossible, to respond to something you didn’t know was coming. Until we perfect our instant clairvoyance, I guess the only real way we can know is through sight and hearing. Hence, I think we can agree that we do need to be ‘present’ in all meanings of the word when fighting.
And herein lies my discovery. If we must be present and thinking during this Kumite, then those thoughts should not be centred on ourselves I mean….who are we actually fighting here ? And that’s when It dawned on me. We are indeed our own opponents. All the time. Every step of the way it’s like there is this preceding shadow of ourselves – as if we are backlit and stand before ourselves in battle between us and them. For us to defeat our enemy, first we must overcome our self.
This is not a matter of throwing caution to the wind and simply accepting any outcome, but learning how to control our mind. To stop the negative talk and turn it into affirmations and then at times to stop the chatter altogether and allow silence so that our training can take over without interference from our ego. We need to be able to separate our emotions from reality & trust in ourselves and our trainers we can hear from the sidelines. We need to be able to shut out the crowd if it’s distracting, or allow that noise in if it drives us positively. We need to know the difference between what hurts us and what stops us. They are not the same. Perhaps, we just need to let ourselves go.
Of course, all this sounds good in theory but how do you do just that. If I knew…….I’m sure I’d be a better instructor….perhaps a much richer one ! Sosai Oyama said, that all questions could be answered in the dojo through hard training and this I believe with my heart. If you push hard enough……questions arise of yourself and your ego all the time during class. They come up in tough fitness sessions, whilst you are pounding the pavement, swimming laps in a pool, during a grading and any time where you place yourself under physical and emotional pressure. Here is the best place to begin to conquer Yourself. Ask yourself the tough questions and be ready for the truth. After all, does the truth not set us free ?
And then…now that you have this truth….this is where the victory lies. The loser allows what is to be and accepts their lot. The champion wins because they accept the truth weather they like it or not, but desire more and stop at nothing until they get it. They do that one more pushup even after their mind said they couldn’t do another. They got up off the mat when their ego said no your’e gonna lose stay down. They dragged their tired body to training when their mates said…..come on man…come out with us. They entered themselves into the tournament despite the fact they were afraid and then they forced themselves into the ring after throwing up in the toilet earlier from the nerves. They never allowed themselves to think they knew everything and always kept an open mind. They accepted their defeats with grace just as much as their small victories along the way remembering all the while that they were accountable for all outcomes both good and bad. They accepted pain knowing that what doesn’t conquer builds. They forged ahead when others quit and ignored their own self doubt. And with each small step , with each small victorious battle , they won the war against themselves.
“Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.” Sun Tzu